Sword’s Edge Publishing

SEP has published a few lines that may be of interest, and you can find a page devoted to each.

Centurion: Legionaries of Rome has characters serving under the eagles of Rome in her famous legions.

Nefertiti Overdrive is about high-octane, wire-fu action set in Ancient Egypt and includes a series of adventures that tell a longer story.

Sword’s Edge is a generic system for which multiple adventures in different genres are available.

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I’m Not Dead Yet

I’m feeling better . . .

I am in the middle of playtesting a new game. For those who used to support my Patreon, it is based on the Quantum and GOD setting, but now called the Lost Earth. I don’t think it will ever see the light of day, simply because of the cost of bringing it out along with its setting, and the system is derived from its setting, so I don’t think I’d be happy releasing it separately.

A figure stands before broken structures looking like fallen skyscrapers beneath the title The Lost Earth: Rebirth, and the subtitle of Adventures in a Broken World

I said the same thing about League of Misfits, so who knows.

Anyway, the playtest is not only helping me with the system, but also helping me with myself.

My formative RPG experience was D&D—AD&D, 2E, and 3/3.5. Until the early 2000s, I almost exclusively played D&D—a bit of Top Secret, some Gamma World, Some WEG Star Wars and a bit of Champions was the sum total of my RPG experience.

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One Down But Work Continues

With Nefertiti Overdrive 2E out in the wild, my trifecta is down to a duology, and work is proceeding apace on both.

One note here is on print editions. The main cost for print editions—along with my time—is indexing. It is precise, painstaking work for which I am poorly engineered. If I would like someone else to do it, it comes at a cost—and SEP will only just start turning a profit this month. So, while print editions for Nefertiti Overdrive 2E and later Kiss My Axe may happen, they will be slow in coming.

Kiss My Axe is in the research phase, but this is also leading to some design decisions and evident changes in the mechanics and focus.

Image by Dmitriy Tereshchenko
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Nefertiti Overdrive 2E

Cover of Get Netiqret

As mentioned earlier, I was working on updating Nefertiti Overdrive, tweaking the rules, focusing the characters more on Egypt and Egypt’s environs, and adding historical context. I’ve removed Get Netiqret as its own thing. When I first wrote Nefertiti Overdrive, I was heavily inspired by the design of Lady Blackbird, but what I released was not nearly as elegant or purpose-driven, and so I think it makes more sense to have Get Netiqret out there on its own.

I also removed the quickstart and released its adventure separate—but still for free now called Proof of Death.

It’s all complete and out now at itch.io: Nefertiti Overdrive, Proof of Death, and Get Netiqret.

I feel better having got it all done. Research proceeds apace for Kiss My Axe 2E, and it is going to be a significant departure in character design if not in base mechanics from what exists now.

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Trifecta?

Nefertiti Overdrive Cover

It’s been a while since I’ve had any news, any information on new products, and that will likely continue for a while, but I don’t feel right if I’m not working on something, and I’m a little too old to change that.

I have three projects at various stages that I’m working on, two of which will likely see a release.

1) Nefertiti Overdrive 2E: I’m updating Nefertiti Overdrive, both changing the structure of the book, and altering the mechanics. I’m removing the adventure and having the book focused on the game itself. The adventure that was included in the 1E book—Get Netiqret–will be released separately but at the same time as 2E.

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Broken Tigers: A Sword Noir Adventure

In a city of memories is a city of violence.

A fantasy city in darkness illuminated by a strange blue light

I’ve released another adventure for Sword Noir 2E. In it, the PCs go back to Everthorn and East Reach outside the walls to face a piece of their past.

Traditional wisdom says one cannot go back to one’s home, because one cannot travel in memory. To forget one’s past is to forget one’s self, but the past is always a trap for the present. Of course, you’ve never been one to let good advice ruin a bad plan. An old friend is in trouble, and no matter what trap the past has laid, you’ll help them if you can—and you are certain that you can.

Broken Tigers is a 45-page PDF adventure for Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery (Second Edition) with 6 pre-generated characters for use by the players. While the adventure does not require the use of Sword Noir, the narrative characters and some situations are based on that system and would require modification to use with another.

You can purchase Broken Tigers at itch.io.

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RPG Research: Sea Raiders Vs. Ugarit

Okay, so my most recent #RPGResearch post goes a little something like this:

In The Philistines and Aegean Migration at the End of the Late Bronze Age, Assaf Yasur-Landau references one of the most common primary sources on the Sea Peoples: letters using the medium of clay tablets that warn of raiding parties (p. 164). In one, the chief prefect warns the king of 20 enemy ships, while in another, the King of Ugarit relates to the King of Alashiya of sighting of seven ships and asks if that king has sighted other vessels.

In general, those ships are often said to likely be Sea Peoples, though there is no definitive proof. Piracy was not an uncommon profession, and a fleet of seven ships seems in line with what Homer has Odysseus speak of in the Odyssey, when Odysseus tells of fitting out nine ships for a raid (14.248).

If you are interested in the likely linkages of the Myceneans and piracy, have a look at Jeffrey P. Emanuel’s chapter “Odysseus’ Boat? New Mycenaean Evidence from the Egyptian New Kingdom” in Discovery of the Classical World: An Interdisciplinary Workshop on Ancient Societies.

If nine is the size of the fleet raised by what Homer would have us call a king, twenty does seem a significant threat if you are the lords of Ugarit. But how much of a threat?

Lionel Casson in his book The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times, assesses that at the time of the Trojan War—the Late Bronze Age—ships would have 20-100 oars, with 50 being normal (pp. 38-39). Each of those oars would be manned by an individual who was also a warrior—basically your entire crew were marines. That would mean that seven ships could have 700 soldiers, but would more likely have 350, as the fleet would probably be made up of vessels of varying sizes. That major fleet that worried the chief prefect of Ugarit could have 2,000 troops, but even 1,000 is substantial given that the population of Ugarit has been extrapolated to be between 3,000 and almost 14,000 (see W. Randall Garr’s “A Population Estimate of Ancient Ugarit” in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research issue 266 from 1987).

And if Helen did have the face that launches a thousand ships? An army of 50,000 would indeed be terrifying—if utterly fanciful for the period.

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RPG Research: Kushites in Egypt

Nefertiti Overdrive Cover

I’m not very vocal on Twitter—my main social media presence . . . if it even qualifies as that. One thing I’ve recently done is posted little history tidbits I learned while doing research for RPGs—either games or adventures. I’ve been posting them under the hashtag RPGResearch.

The most recent one comes for Dr. Donald B. Redford’s From Slave to Pharaoh: The Black Experience of Ancient Egypt which was research material for Nefertiti Overdrive.

This is from very early on in the books in which Dr. Redford recounts in general the connections and relationships between the Egyptians and the Kushites/Nubians. While the narrative of Kush as some kind of satellite/tributary of Egypt is now questioned—the two certainly had connections, but the Egyptians likely culturally adopted from the Nubians as much as they influenced development there. Still, there were expatriates of Kush living in Egypt, and Dr. Redford suggests that while they were segregated, there was also intermarriage and cultural assimilation, with Kushites holding some minor bureaucratic and courtly positions, as well as lesser priesthoods. (pages 6-9)

The mention of the Medjay is actually anachronistic for the Old Kingdom. Dr. Redford indicates that the Kushites were indeed linked to a gendarmerie known as the “kilt-wearers,” but that the term Medjay is attributed to the New Kingdom and was also a region in Lower Nubia. (page 20)

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Direct Intent

I am almost finished with Direct Action—the newest version of the kind of game I have worked on and played since Covert Forces in 2005—and hope to have it available early in May 2022. As much as I enjoy writing about elite military units, I am not blind to the real-world problems and issues with these units.

Cover of Direct Action

As military units and tools of national policy for rich nations, elite military units and the operators that staff them have been used in unjust ways, undermining the rule of law and the right to self-determination for many people. They have not and generally are not particularly well-integrated. Their reputation draws to them individuals keen to showcase their physical capabilities and those whose patriotism may lean more to jingoism. Though their initial imagining was as a precise kinetic tool comprised of philosopher-warriors, many have become blunt hammers comprised of shooters. Further, their representation in modern media generally reinforces negative stereotypes of the ethnic and cultural makeup of terrorists and criminals. No matter the truth about the current profile of those who threaten democracy and rule of law, it is always easier to point to the brown and black ‘other.’

To top this all off, during the period that I was working on this, questions regarding adherence to the laws of armed combat surfaced for elite units in Australia, Canada, and the United States. It delayed completion multiple times as I set the game aside.

There are definite problems with these units.

But it is also true that many are drawn to these units because they believe in the rule of law, the right to self-determination, and the requirement for the strong to protect and nurture the weak. Historically, Western society has always lionized bands of elite warriors, no matter the actual truth behind them.

Developing a role-playing game for elite military operators carries many of the same risks as developing games based on the Vikings or Roman legionaries—like Kiss My Axe and Centurion: Legionaries of Rome. Those historical groups did not, in actual history, display the heroism their legends might suggest, and were brutal, violent groups that oppressed those they could safely dominate. However, I would argue that it is possible to play games based on heroism using the tropes of those historical legends, which is why I designed those games.

Understanding that special operations forces can be problematic—as can any military force—this game is intended to allow participants to play heroic characters that have reached the pinnacle of their chosen profession and use their abilities and resources in an attempt to improve the world. That they fail or that they are disillusioned can be included in their stories. The shortcomings of the units need not be ignored, but there is an attraction to ambitious, competent, and driven figures, and that is a good description of most of special warfare operators.

On a personal note, I enjoy playing video games like Ghost Recon and Call of Duty. I have every issue of the comic the Activity. I watched the Unit during its broadcast and have watched both the Six and SEAL Team. I have seen both Acts of Valour and 13 Hours more than once. I am also a middle-aged white guy who has never served but whose career has brought him into contact with various special operations and special operations capable forces. I’ve written a lot of RPG content focused on elite military units. I also believe that black lives matter, that trans rights are human rights, that racism is hard-coded into the structures of most institutions, and that indigenous peoples’ rights and claims must be respected. I am a socialist who believes in strong national security policies and a robust, effective military under complete civilian control.

I want to believe that one can portray heroic characters who have undergone the most rigorous training available in the modern military and now seek to pursue just causes and fight the good fight. That is why I wrote Direct Action and why I think there are those out there interested in playing it.

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Speaking Of Winter’s Silence

Some of you may have noticed that SEP has released a few Sword’s Edge adventures recently, as well as updating two Sword Noir adventures to 2E. I’ve just finished the first draft of a third and original Sword Noir adventure that I hope to have out soon.

Betrayal is part of the game.

The client claims to be a mythical figure of legend, exiled from his body, inhabiting that of another until he can regain his sanctum sanctorum. Whether you believe him or not, he’s got gold and he seems ready to spend it. You know it means trouble, insinuating yourself into the world of the guilds and their wealthy members, but trouble is always part of the bargain. And the client’s story is only the tip of a very cold and very dark iceberg.

Hopefully that gets you in the mood and gets you excited. Another Sword Noir adventure is in the works, though I have done nothing other than write down some conceptual notes. I intend to get that to you as quickly as I can.

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Patreon-izing

I’m sure I’ve made the joke before, but what the heck.

If you have been here in the last few years, you will have noticed something different: nothing directing you to a Patreon. That’s an experiment that has come to a close. I have to admit that having started SEP in 2004, I still haven’t figured out marketing. Unlike Kickstarters, where drive-by traffic can fuel some (for me, it’s most) of the support, Patreon relies on the subject’s ability to pull in people.

Never been really good with that.

For a while, the Patreon proved useful just to push me to create RPG material. The larger one’s catalogue, the more revenue one can expect from Drive-Thru RPG (much like Patreon, itch.io—at least for me—is very dependent on the author/publisher’s ability to draw in customers). So in the end, the Patreon will likely have a longer reach than the revenue which came directly from it.

The sad truth is that, many modern societies and cultures measure a product’s value and impact in revenue. Back in university, I took a course on the social psychology of sport, and in a component about contracts we looked at studies suggesting large contracts are pursued more as a signal of the management’s regard for the athlete than for the money itself. I imagine it’s the same in entertainment as a whole.

All that to say, I’m not immune to this, so I’m afraid I continue to looks at sales and people’s willingness to spend money on me as a measure of my value—at least as an author and RPG designer.

I think I have one or two ‘for pay’ projects I might pursue, but if I write any more adventures, I think I might release them as ‘pay what you will,’ knowing the general perception will be that these are lesser products than those with a fixed price.

Forget it, Jake. It’s capitalism.

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